Friday, 28 March 2008

Mitts and bits

A few weeks ago, my good friend Mel gave me these beautiful handknitted mitts for my birthday. I believe the pattern she used was called 'Princess Mitts' (see the pattern here).

Fingerless mitts

The yarn she used was Twilleys Freedom Spirit, which is a soft single ply wool, in a pretty blue/purple colourway. I love how the cable patterns on the top of the hand have come out so subtly in this yarn, they're lovely and soft to wear too. I use them to keep my hands warm when it's cold at my computer desk, my hands can get really chilly when I'm using the mouse a lot, these mitts keep my hands warm, but leave my fingers free to hit that all important 'buy it now button' :)

Since seeing how nicely the yarn knitted up, I bought some to knit my friend Clare's birthday present (it must be a very birthdayish yarn), who received a Chromosome cap from me last week (Clare's a research biologist).

Chromosome Hat

Again, the cabling patterns have come out very subtly, with just enough definition to show, but not clashing with the striping of the yarn.

Up close, you can see a bit more detail of the chromosome patterns:

Chromosome Hat

As I knitted with the Freedom Sprit yarn, I did my usual 'so how did they make this?' analysis. I found that it's a single ply, spun from a reasonably long stapled wool and with very little twist. I decided to have a go at replicating it with some painted roving I had in my stash.

The roving I used was some I bought from Lapoli on Etsy a few weeks ago. Originally I'd intended to use it for sock yarn, but I'd bought three braids in different colours and I already have many unknitted skeins of sock yarn, so the pretty blue and brown stuff went into my experiment.

I'd already split and predrafted the roving, so it was about pencil thickness. I set my wheel to its lowest ratio and treadled REALLY slowly, then I just passed the roving onto the bobbin with hardly any drafting at all. My feet kept getting twitchy and trying to treadle faster, so I got a few twisty parts, but overall it came out well. I washed and abused the resulting yarn (yes that's a technical term), i.e. I washed it roughly in hot, then cold water with soap, which helped felt it a little. And it came out like this:

Handspun Single Ply Yarn

It's a bit more bumpy than I wanted, and quite a lot bulkier, but unlike the Twilleys yarn, it's surprisingly resilient. I tried breaking off a piece earlier and had to resort to scissors, it was that well held together.

The skein's been sitting and goading me into using it all morning. Good thing I had the day off work! I decided to make another pair of mitts with it, an outdoor pair this time, as Mel's mitts are definitely indoor wear (Princesses don't mix well with the mud around here on the farm :) ). So, I spent the afternoon knitting my newly-spun yarn into some Maine Morning Mitts, as well as baking chocolate chip cookies. Haven't been this domesticated in ages! :)

Here's how they came out:

Maine Morning Mitts

Maine Morning Mitts


Actually, I've only finished one mitt. The other needs to be completed this evening as I'm going to the coast tomorrow and the weather forecast is windy, mitts will definitely be a requirement.

And finally, a shot to show just how impressed Hamlet the cat was with the yarn, i.e. not very, it's on HIS chair:

Hamlet and yarn

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Dyeing - the results

Ok, so the rovings I dyed didn't quite match the photos they were supposed to be based on, but they did come out very pretty colours. Here's the first one, in blackberry colours:

Roving - Blackberries

Which was sort of based on this photo:

And this one, which came out a closer colour match:

Roving - Ebb Pool at Lyme

Used colours from this photo of the beach at Lyme Regis:

Ebb tide at Lyme Regis

They're both Shetland wool top and I'm having a hard time not spinning them up myself (note to self - hands off, they're for the shop!).

The day after dyeing these two, I went a bit wool dyeing crazy. I spent the whole day painting and cooking wool rovings, which resulted in this:

Rainbow Rovings

The second one in from the right is my second attempt at the blackberry colours, which I think came out better - although I still like the purply colours of the original one. I took notes of all of it, so hopefully I'll be able to repeat the colours.

By the end of Saturday, I was absolutely worn out. Spent most of Easter Sunday sitting still and knitting (oh and eating Easter eggs). But hey, I have a week off from work this week, so it seemed an ideal way to begin the holidays.

And in case you're wondering, I did dye a couple of rovings for myself to spin, there were some short leftover bits that seemed to jump into my hands out of the dyepot saying 'keep me, keep me'. And I simply can't refuse wool that talks :)

Friday, 21 March 2008

Dyed and set

I was planning to do a whole batch of wool dyeing today, which I usually do outdoors as it's messy and (sometimes) smelly. But the weather didn't agree with the plan, we've had wild wind, rain, a bit of sleet, all sorts of stuff. Not to be outdone, I decided that I'd set my horse's stable up as a temporary dye studio. My horse, Sam, doesn't use the stable much, although there is still straw in there from Giles' occupancy a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, armed with a newly-purchased wallpapering table from B&Q (I usually use a picnic bench, but that just wasn't going to fit through the stable door), I set up a dye painting area and soaked some Shetland roving in preparation.

My usual method for painting rovings is pretty time-consuming, as I'm a bit of a stickler for note-taking. Must be all those lab practicals I did at uni. However, since these rovings are destined for sale (in my online shop, which is on its way soon) it's probably a good thing I've got notes, someone's bound to ask me to repeat a colourway. So after setting everything up, I only finished two rovings today, but the table and dyes are still out there, so I can do a whole day's dyeing tomorrow.

Just as a teaser, here are today's two, just before I 'cooked' them.


I base my colours on photos I've taken, the bluey/greeny one was based on a photo of some rock pools at Charmouth beach, while the red/purple one was inspired by a photo of some wild blackberries. The last batch of rovings I did came out remarkably close to the colours in the photos:

This roving, which I called 'Coast'

Coast roving

Was inspired by this photo, taken at Charmouth Beach last spring:

Jurassic coast at Charmouth

And this one, called 'Calendulas',

Calendulas roving

used colours from this photo of some calendulas I grew last year:


No idea if today's colours will come out as well as these, I'll post pics of them if they do. And I'll go back to my drawing board if they don't! :)

p.s. Giles and Splodge the rams are getting on much better now, so it looks as though Splodge will be around here for a while. But just to maintain Giles' cute and friendly factor, I'm planning to halter train him, so I can take him out on walks on his own sometimes. Splodge isn't going to like being left on his own at all, but it serves him right for being so mean to Giles in the first place!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Giles and friends

Meet Giles, my new pedigree coloured Ryeland ram, bought to help my ewes produce some lambs with interesting spinners' fleeces. His pedigree name is 'Juggernaut', but I've named him Giles as, like the tv character, he'll be in charge of Buffy, Willow and Cordelia (my ewes). That said, it was recently pointed out to me that the tv Giles' role did not include some of the duties that sheepy Giles will be expected to perform. So I suppose the analogy should end there!

This little guy's not been here long, I collected him from his previous home, way up in the north of England last week. Surprisingly he didn't seem at all bothered by the journey and he's settled in very well here.


The photo was taken yesterday, shortly after I put him and his new companion Splodge, a friend's Texel ram, in their new paddock. Splodge and Giles have spent the last week together in a stable, separated into different pens. The idea was to allow them to get to know each other, although judging by how they reacted when I put them in the field, they still had a lot of 'issues' to resolve. As you can see in the photo below, Splodge isn't the world's prettiest sheep. He's also large, much larger than Giles, and he's keen to demonstrate that as far as other sheep are concerned, he's the boss. Fortunately, Giles is young and very nimble. As soon as Splodge lowers his head to charge at his field companion, Giles bounces out of the way. He also knows that humans are safe. I've never owned a grown sheep that wanted to be near people before, my ewes are very still wary, despite lots of handfeeding, but Giles is just the friendliest little guy. If he thinks that Splodge is looking menacing, he'll come over to me and hide. Whether I could withstand a battering from Splodge is another matter!

Giles and Splodge

They look quite companionable in the photo, but I think they were just pausing for breath. Frankly, I'm not sure that Splodge can stay here for long if he keeps pestering Giles. I borrowed him as my other sheep are all ewes, and putting a single ram in them could be exciting for him, but will play havoc with the lambing schedule. So I'll give Splodge a few more days' trial to see if things settle down, if not, I'm on the lookout for some wether rams to keep him company instead.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008


I finally got around to taking some pics of my completed handspun Wicked sweater today ( Ravelry project details here). This is a project that's taken me over four years to complete - from my early notes about spinning the yarn, to finally casting off a few days ago. The yarn was spun from a blend I made on my old Barnett drum carder, using some caramel coloured CVM fleece (a gift from my friend Barbara), apricot angora bunny fibre and tussah silk. The drum carder’s cloth wasn’t really fine enough for the angora fibre, so it ended up being quite a neppy blend. The final yarn was a bit lumpy, but really soft and fuzzy, with a slight sheen from the silk.

It didn't actually take me four years to make - but I got so bored with blending and then spinning the same caramel coloured yarn that I kept abandoning it. Knitting took just a couple of months, mainly because the yarn was so delicious to knit with. It was incredibly light, and the more the yarn was handled, the more it fuzzed up. Knitting with it was like hugging bunny rabbits (I imagine, sadly I don't have any bunny rabbits to hand to compare it with).

Anyway, here are the pics, modelled by the very obliging Mavis (aka my dressmaker's dummy) who's the same size as me.

This is the front:

Handspun Wicked Sweater

And here's the front again, this time showing the pocket. The pocket's very slightly wonky, so if it annoys me when I wear it,I may take out the top stitching at some time and reposition it.

Handspun Wicked Sweater

And here's a closeup of the soft fuzziness of it:

Handspun Wicked Sweater

Oh yes, and the pattern's 'Wicked' by Zephyr Style. It was knitted from the top down, which I'd not tried for a jumper before, but I enjoyed it so much that I now don't want to knit any other way. It's a great pattern, really easy to follow and adapt for custom fit. I altered the hemline so it was a bit longer than the pattern, and I finished the sleeves with moss stitch instead of cables as the cabling didn't show up too well with the fuzzy yarn. I also added a tiny bit of shaping to the hips, rather than knitting straight down from the waist.

I am now feeling bereft after working on this project for so long. I only have my Anna cardigan on the needles at the moment, it's weird not to have Wicked to cuddle up with and knit. But I'm sure that won't last for long - there are plenty of new project ideas jumping around in my head already!

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Treefrogs as promised

So, here are the pics of my Treefrog socks, finally finished. I thought I'd get all creative and take the photos while actually climbing a tree. Which was harder than I thought - I don't have sticky feet like a real treefrog. That's probably a good thing, it'd make it very difficult to remove the socks after wearing. And much as I like them, bright green doesn't go with all my outfits!

Anyway here they are:

Treefrog socks

And again:

Treefrog socks

And just to prove that I did knit two socks:

Treefrog socks

They were knitted in Posh Yarn's 'Emily' yarn, which is a blend of merino, cashmere and angora. It's a lovely yarn and the colours flowed beautifully as I knitted. It was a bit thicker than my preferred sock yarn, and I chose to knit them using the toe-up Widdershins pattern again, but since the guage was different from the original pattern, I adapted it according to Cabezalana's instructions. Well I say adapted, I sort of guessed the numbers, and then frogged the heel a zillion times until it looked right, grinding my teeth and growling all the while. The yarn held up surprisingly well to that, considering it's got that delicate cashmere and angora thing going on.

With hindsight, I think I should have knitted them with a slightly tighter guage, as the stitches stretch out more than I'd like over my feet and I can feel the purl stitch bumps under the soles. This isn't proving too much of a problem after a couple of days' wear as the soles are felting a little, making them much more comfy.

Other news - I have now finally finished my handspun Wicked sweater, hurrah! It's still damp from blocking, so I don't have photos yet. But I have done a happy dance, as well I should for a project that's been in the making for over four years! I'll blog all about it next time.